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Meet Kimberly: My mums office and dealing with rejections

My name is Kimberly Chiuh and I have just finished my first year of Law LLB at the University of Leicester. I was born and raised in Brunei Darussalam, a small and peaceful monarchy on Borneo island. Both my parents had occupations closely related to the law so it was only natural for me to grow an interest in it. My father was a police officer whilst my mother worked as a personal assistant in one of the biggest commercial law firms in Brunei. When I was younger, I spent many days in my mom’s office watching lawyers and secretaries run up and down the office for photocopies. At that time, I didn’t understand their profession. It was only after I graduated from high school, and did a week’s worth of internship there, did I finally understand what lawyers really do in the office.

“Why law?” is a question that is commonly asked during interviews for vacation schemes and training contracts. Some students panic whenever they are asked that. They feel as though there is a formulated answer which graduate recruitment want to hear. They try to tell people that being a lawyer has been their aspiration ever since they were four years old. Most of the time, that’s a lie and most of the time, it doesn’t work. Graduate recruitment wants to know how you are like and what motivates you. Interviews are for them to gauge how suited you are to the culture of the firm and whether your values align with theirs. What they want is honesty.

The first reason I decided to pursue law is quite unconventional. I was watching a Korean drama with my mother and the plot was about a lawyer who wanted to solve a murder that had happened twenty years before. On the side, he did pro-bono work for his poor and vulnerable neighbours. He accepted payment in the form of sweet potatoes and gave free legal advice out of the goodness of his heart. Oddly enough, his character had really resonated with me. It was at that moment where I decided I wanted to be a lawyer in order to help people get the justice they deserved.

Over the past few years, I did two internships in Brunei as well as attended workshops and networking events during the first year of university. The experiences that I got out of meeting legal professionals and asking about their work were invaluable. The more experiences I gained, the more I understood what a career in law is really like. It showed me how little I actually know about the different areas in law. Despite my natural gravitation towards advocacy, I have also found a budding interest in commercial law. This shows that the things we want and interest us may change over time. You don’t need to have your whole legal career planned and figured out. Becoming a lawyer isn’t a straight line and the reasons as to why you want to be a lawyer isn’t a formula.

Once you’ve decided that you do want to be a lawyer, you need to be prepared for rejections. There will be a lot of it in university especially in your first year. However, remember that every rejection is an opportunity to learn from failure and do better next time. Go through your applications again and try to pick out parts of your answers that you could have worded better. Did you link your answers to yourself and your own experiences? Were your answers generic and lacking in detail? Graduate recruitment wants to know about who you are as an individual. They want to know about you, so always link your answers back to yourself. Think about what value you can add to the law firm or chambers, then remind yourself of why you want to be accepted and why you want this opportunity.

Law school is going to be difficult. But growth happens during the moments you overcome challenges. So, just keep working hard and take care of yourself mentally and physically.

If you have any questions about myself or about my experiences from first-year, you can connect with me on LinkedIn @ Kimberly Chiuh.

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